* From left, Howard Sutcliffe, of the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley AONB; Haf Roberts and Cara Roberts of Cadwyn Clwyd’s Green Communities Project, and Haf Jones, of Conwy County Council. Picture by Mandy Jones Photography.
Towns and villages across North East Wales are being challenged to come up with innovative green projects to earn a slice of a £1.3 million fund aimed at boosting the local environment.
The Green Communities Fund aims to provide money to kick-start sustainable community-led projects and is being launched this month across the rural areas of Denbighshire, Flintshire, Conwy and Wrexham.
Up to 30 towns and villages across the region can benefit and are being invited to submit their proposals for schemes which can range from creating bee gardens to bio-diversity corridors and bicycle networks.
It is being administered by rural development agency Cadwyn Clwyd and funded by the Welsh Government Rural Communities Rural Development Programme funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD), and Welsh Government.
Project Lead Haf Roberts, based at Cadwyn Clwyd’s Corwen office, said: “The message is to bring people and nature together because one of the lessons from Covid is how important our green spaces are to our physical and mental well-being.
“The quality of the local environment directly affects us so this initiative aims to help improve and enhance community green spaces, strengthen local biodiversity and mitigate the effects of climate change.
“The projects need to be community-led so that local people have a sense of ownership and ensure they continue to provide value over time.”
They aim to deliver the wellbeing goals in the Welsh Government’s Wellbeing and Future Generations Act by focusing on Covid recovery and green growth at a community level.
It is a Welsh Government scheme under the ENRaW Fund (Enabling Natural Resources and Well-being) to support improvements to where people live, work and play.
It covers the rural areas of the four counties where biodiversity projects and green infrastructure can help green the environment and communities.
Cadwyn Clwyd’s partners in the project include Denbighshire County Council, Conwy County Borough Council, Flint County Council and Wrexham County Borough Council.
Howard Sutcliffe, of the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, said: “The time is right now as we’ve entered a world of climate change and green infrastructure with COP 26 just around the corner and this project is all about improving the quality of life, especially after the pandemic.
“This project really brings green values into the community and we will see the benefits on the ground for all the community such as tree-planting, electric charging points and projects everyone can benefit from.”
Haf Jones, Conwy County Council Community Development Officer, said: “We are fortunate to be surrounded by beautiful green communities in this area and this project will involve people in those communities after 18 months of Covid restrictions.
“So many have discovered the countryside during lockdown and hopefully they will continue to enjoy the peace, tranquillity and fresh air which is also so important for our mental health as we slowly adapt to life after lockdown.”
Haf Roberts added: “We are looking for good ideas that communities can get involved with to transform their local environment.
“These can range from developing community gardens and orchard planting to energy efficient improvements to community buildings.
“Improvements that enhance access to services and facilities will also be considered in the context of greening the local environment.
“We want community groups to be innovative with ideas around using their green spaces in interesting and inventive ways and encouraging all members of their locality to take part and benefit from this activity.
“There is an element of time pressure because this is the last round of European funding that is coming through so we need communities to get their expressions of interest in quickly as the project ends in June 2023.
“It’s a tight schedule but it is a golden opportunity for rural communities to take responsibility and take advantage of this project.
“We have wonderful assets in our countryside and this is about managing them and improving them and one of the key aims is to create more community-owned green spaces and more community involvement in their local environment.”
Communities with an idea for a project within the eligible counties can declare an interest by filling in the form available on the Cadwyn Clwyd website at http://cadwynclwyd.co.uk/green-communities/
Since 1995 Cadwyn Clwyd has attracted nearly £30 million in European and domestic funding for North East Wales’s rural areas across sectors such as the environment, food and drink, tourism and rural services to support communities at the grass root level.